The skill set is there when you talk about Cowboys running back Tony Pollard. The explosiveness and speed he possesses are things a young running back would dream of having. His ability to break through arm tackles combined with his good vision make him one of the best in the league, as a pure runner.
On paper, this season you would think otherwise. By week 10 of the 2022 season, Tony Pollard was averaging 5.2 yards per carry and had put together three 100 yard games for six touchdowns. In 2023, at the same point in the season, he was down to just 3.8 yards per carry, had scored only a single touchdown and had eclipsed 100 yards rushing just once.
In a season where the Cowboys offense has been impressive mostly due to their passing game, Pollard has under-performed. Last season, he was able to come in on a 3rd and 7 type play and be counted on to make a big play to move the chains. This year, he was expected to have that same big-play ability but earlier in drives. The touches have increased for Pollard, following the departure of Ezekiel Elliott to New England. Mike McCarthy also made it known in the preseason that the running game was going to be this teams' focus. So it is safe to say that bigger things were expected for the fifth- year running back.
The results have not been as eye-popping as we had hoped, to say the least. But Pollard was given another go on Sunday to break through.
Cowboys running back Tony Pollard scores his first touchdown since week 1
It was Week 11 and the Cowboys were set to play the single-win Carolina Panthers led by rookie quarterback Bryce Young and... oh wait. There are not many other names to be highlighted on this Panthers team this season.
In this game, the Cowboys seemingly made it a point to give Pollard a lot of volume. In the first two drives alone, Pollard carried the ball five times and was targeted by Dak Prescott twice. You just knew watching this game that the struggling runner was going to get back on track.
As the game went on, the passing game stayed hot like it has for much of the season. Prescott was finding his targets, CeeDee Lamb was creating space and the other veteran receivers moved the chains with ease. This passing attack will continue to be dynamic and it could prove vital to this team's success going into December and beyond.
However, when one specific player is in the mix making plays, the Dallas offense can be that much better, maybe even the best in the league.
That player is Pollard. The former Memphis Tiger would go on to finish his Sunday afternoon with 12 carries for 61 yards and one touchdown run. He would also chip in 19 receiving yards catching four balls from Prescott. Had it been a more competitive game, you could bet that total would be higher. The Cowboys showed that they had the right playbook to provide Pollard with the right opportunities. Pollard showed, finally, that he can be a lethal weapon for this offense.
The highlight of Pollard's performance was a 21-yard touchdown run in the beginning of the fourth quarter that puts a smile on every one of the faces of his teammates, coaches and Cowboy fans all around. On this play, he broke through a handful of arm tackles (his specialty) on his way to stretching out to get the ball over the plane of the end zone to give the Cowboys a 24-10 lead.
The team would go on to win this game, 33-10. The other points would come from an interception return by ball-hawk DeRon Bland and a chip shot field goal from Brandon Aubrey late in the game.
Overall, were the Cowboys facing a stout defense? No. But the Panthers are not the worst defense in the league and they have a few play-makers on that side. No matter the opponent, Pollard's play showed signs of what he can do, and after riding with him during this subpar season, this "what he can do" game was very promising.
Fans have waited for nine weeks to see another Tony Pollard touchdown and for some reason, after seeing Sunday's break-through score, the feelings is that Pollard is about to blow up and at the right time.